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2016

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

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Jan 2016

6th January

The most interesting things never cropped up when you were sitting comfortably in chairs. It was always in transient places like halls or staircases or bathroom doorways that the really important things started to be said and you had to discuss them then and there, because the mood was lost if you moved away to a more suitable place.

Monica Dickens, No More Meadows (1953)

13th January

I now know that when you shoot a movie where the crew is absolutely hysterical with laughter and you are repeatedly told by the sound guy that you are making the funniest movie in history, you may be in trouble.

Nora Ephron, I Remember Nothing and other reflections (2010)

20th January

She disliked on sight all people who were not just like the majority of other people. Her ambitions were to look, dress, and talk like every other healthy, athletic, intelligent girl of her age.

Josephine Elder, Exile for Annis (1938)

27th January

Quick and quick in the flying months she passed with hasting feet over ways that once had seemed ever-lasting: the need not only for a lover’s caresses, but the need for anyone’s liking, for care, kind words and safe eyes... That dreadful storm she’d once visioned stripping her bare was all about her, and she feared it no longer, eager to be naked, alone and unfriended, facing the last realities with a cool, clear wonder, an unhasting desire. Barriers still, but they fell one by one --

Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Grey Granite (A Scots Quair 3) (1932)

Feb 2016

3rd February

After the koftas came partridges, plump, each sitting on its square of toast, with a piquant bread sauce, gravy, fresh vegetables. Blaise began visibly to be appeased. The old butler is right, thought Mary, men are better when they have been fed.

Rumer Godden, Coromandel Sea Change (1991)

10th February

I'm afraid of the candour & 'dash' with which I wrote it; which are in the same form essential to it. Afraid of the first person--of people reading the "I"s & saying "Mary Butts thinks this." This is Bunk. I believe as much as I ever did what I said there. Now I shiver at slips, worse still--at my own enthusiasm & wonder how I could have been so bold, so shameless, credulous, so expose myself.

The Journals of Mary Butts, edited by Nathalie Blondel (2002)

17th February

But [gratitude] once had a finer and more unyielding quality, before it was assailed by the fundamental instinct in human beings, which is to dislike having to be grateful because it fidgets their vanity, takes away from their sense of importance

G B Stern, Benefits Forgot (1949)

24th February

What later purge from this deep toxin cures?
What kindness now could the old salve renew?
It is the pain, it is the pain endures.

William Empson, Villanelle: "It Is the Pain..." (n.d. c. 1930s)

Mar 2016

2nd March

She assures us that: 'Nerve trouble is also on the increase, we are told, the rush of modern life, telephones and motor-cars being, as people fancy, the reason of it. The real cause is syphilis.' Perhaps Miss Pankhurst is now puzzled at a certain coldness noticeable in those of her friends who have had nervous breakdowns.

Rebecca West, 'On Mentioning the Unmentionable: An Exhortation to Miss Pankhurst' (The Clarion 26 September 1913), in The Young Rebecca: Writings of Rebecca West, 1911-1917, selected and introduced by Jane Marcus (1982)

9th March

Plainly, the more rules you can invent, the less need there will be to waste time over fruitless puzzling about right and wrong.

F M Cornford, Microcosmographia Academica: Being a Guide for the Young Academic Politician (1908)
cited in Matthew Adams, 'Wisdom from the Ivory Tower' in Slightly Foxed no 49, Spring 2016

16th March

There is only one way to set the world straight. A desperate measure, but it might just work. We must eschew anything trivial. We must embrace all that is frivolous.

Do not confuse the two or disastrous results may ensue. Trivial things take up all your time and dull your senses, whereas frivolity is meaningful, profound, worth living and dying for.

Cynthia Heimel, Sex Tips for Girls (1983)

23rd March

We all know that we are interesting only relatively speaking; but we don't really known it; and secretly we believe otherwise. To be faced daily with the suspicion that you may not be interesting at all is a frightening circumstance to negotiate. First you think, It must be them, it can't be me. Then you think, No, it's not them, it is me. Getting to the third thought, It's not them, it's not me, it's the two of us together--that takes some diving.

Vivian Gornick, Approaching Eye Level (1996)

30th March

[T]he state of rapture I experience when I read a wonderful book is one of the main reasons I read, but it doesn't happen every time or even every other time, and when it does happen, I'm truly beside myself.

Norah Ephron, 'On Rapture', in I Feel Bad About My Neck, and other thoughts on being a woman (2006)

Apr 2016

6th April

[S]he was too busy noticing this kiss to respond to it. She expected to be thrilled, shaken by emotion; nothing of the sort happened. She merely felt a warm, meaningless pressure on her mouth.

Dodie Smith, The New Moon With The Old (1963)

13th April

[P]utting the darkest construction on whatever people in general are doing or failing to do is not so much an impulse as a reflex.

Marilynne Robinson, 'Decline', in The Givenness of Things: essays (2015)

20th April

She had no means of knowing how deep his feeling for her was. Other women guessed when men were physically attracted to them, but Jane, unless her attention had been disagreeably called to it, never knew.

Phyllis Bottome, Private Worlds (1934)

27th April

Proust has pointed out that if one goes on performing any action, however banal, long enough, it automatically becomes "wonderful": a simple walk down a hundred yards of village is "wonderful" if is made every Sunday by an old lady of eighty.

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1942)

May 2016

4th May

In a new friend we start life anew, for we create a new edition of ourselves and so become, for the time being, a new creature

D E Stevenson, Miss Buncle Married (1936)

11th May

We are amazed at the extent to which a man who was boundlessly sympathetic on paper with imaginary beings could be so outrageously inconsiderate to real people at his own home.

Cited in, 'Bernard Shaw’s Criticism of Tolstoy', Current Literature LI (July 1911), and quoted in Seth Koven, The Match Girl and the Heiress (2015)

18th May

It was time for someone to tell Susan that her family inheritance of good looks, good sense and plenty of brains was in a fair way to be itself a tradition, or the beginning of a tradition. But no one knew what was going on inside her head, so no one was likely to tell her.

Angela Thirkell, Love Among The Ruins (1948)

[No quotation for 25th May]

Jun 2016

[No quotation for 1st or 8th June]

15th June

[W]e can now consider movies that affect us with the same power as experiences in our real lives. Such movies can be comedies as well as tragedies; to laugh deeply and sincerely is as important as to weep. What must happen is that, for a scene or for a whole film, we are swept up in thoughts and emotions not of our own making.

Roger Ebert, Ebert's Bests (2012)

[No quotation for 22nd June]

29th June

Leonora was not naturally witty, but she had been surrounded by enough wit to recognize it, to assimilate the pace and delivery and to know that these, more often than content, were the essense of wit.

Jill Schary, Thanks for the rubies, now please pass the Moon (1972)

Ju1 2016

6th July

'This is a great country, and we are proud of it, and it means much that is most lovable. But questioning does not mean the end of loving, and loving does not mean the abnegation of intelligence. Vow as much love to your country as you like; serve to the death if that is necessary....' She was thinking of Joe Astell, killing himself by overwork on the Clydeside, dying for his country more surely than thousands of those who today waved flags and cheered for royalty. 'But, I implore you, do not forget to question.'

Winifred Holtby, South Riding (1936)

13th July

It is really rather miraculous that someone as ill-suited to the demands of life as I am should have found a niche to flourish in. I have lived long enough to chalk up to age inadequacies that have been with me the whole of my conscious life

Marilynne Robinson, 'Realism', in The Givenness of Things: essays (2015)

20th July

These books were here because people had cared about them, individually, cared enough to copy them and pass them forward across centuries and civilizations, hand stretching out to human hand through time, with no surety that any future hand would be waiting to receive the offering.

Jo Walton, Necessity (2016)

27th July

Discipline and normalization are not the only ways power operates in modern societies, and a flat anti-normativity is not necessarily the most efficacious political or conceptual challenge to the forms of constraint and abjection people face.

Jeffrey Weeks, What Is Sexual History (2016)

Aug 2016

3rd August

My labours have cheered long hours of solitude, and taken me out of a world, which has averted its once benignant face from me, to one glowing with imagination and power. Will my readers ask how I could find solace from the narration of misery and woeful change? This is one of the mysteries of our nature, which holds full sway over me, and from whose influence I cannot escape. I confess, that I have not been unmoved by the development of the tale; and that I have been depressed, nay, agonized, at some parts of the recital, which I have faithfully transcribed from my materials. Yet such is human nature, that the excitement of mind was dear to me, and that the imagination, painter of tempest and earthquake, or, worse, the stormy and ruin-fraught passions of man, softened my real sorrows and endless regrets, by clothing these fictitious ones in that ideality, which takes the mortal sting from pain.

Mary Shelley, The Last Man (1826)

10th August

[L]imitation could be understood as leverage, a highly efficient multiplier of possibility that creates and gives access to our largest capacities. This would no doubt seem a mighty paradox, if we were not so thoroughly accustomed to the truth of it.

Marilynne Robinson, 'Limitation', in The Givenness of Things: essays (2015)

17th August

She liked him very much. Or did she? She wasn’t really sure. She liked the way he spoke. It was different--amusing. She liked his being so new, so different, but she wasn’t sure whether she really liked him. When you have lived in a place all your life, you know everyone so very well. You know just what they will think and what they will say, and what they will do, and that may be dull, but it gives you a very safe feeling. When you don’t really know people you don’t feel quite so safe. Cathy liked to feel safe.

Patricia Wentworth, Who Pays the Piper? (1940)

24th August

It is a common quality of the films we 'love' that we can see them an indefinite number of times. Most good films need be seen only once (films that are not good need not be seen at all). Raiders of the Lost Ark achieves what it intends with admirable skill and artistry, but when you have seen it, it remains seen. I have seen Citizen Kane perhaps a hundred times, perhaps sixty of those times with the shot-by-shot approach, and I could happily start watching it again right now.

Roger Ebert, Ebert's Bests (2012)

31st August

He had become one of that awkward and compelling class of mavericks who even in their conventional moments are assumed to be conducting Byzantine campaigns of incomprehensible defiance.

Sarah Tolmie, 'Cakes and Ale', in NoFood (2014)

Sep 2016

7th September

P.S. I have seen Mrs Winter-Gammon quite a lot.... Can quite understand why Aunt Blanche has said that she will not agree to share a flat with her again when the war is over. Mrs W-G has dynamic personality and is inclined to have a devitalising effect on her surroundings.

Re-read postscript and am not at all sure that it wouldn't have been better to say in plain English that old Mrs W-G is more aggravating than ever, and that Aunt Blanche is well out of sharing a flat with her.

EM Delafield The Provincial Lady in Wartime (1940)

14th September

Beard acknowledged that it is easier to document ways that women have been silenced than it is to find a remedy to their silencing.... The real issue, she suggested, is not merely guaranteeing a woman’s right to speak; it is being aware of the prejudices that we bring to the way we hear her.

Mary Beard, quoted in Rebecca Mead, 'Profiles: The Troll Slayer: A Cambridge classicist takes on her sexist detractors, The New Yorker, 1 Sep 2014

21st September

He had been a man like many, so wrapped and rapt in his own story that there was no room for the world around him except as it served his own tale... and all the women invisible everywhere, except when they brought him drinks or sold him food - all walk-on parts in the play that was Randolph Carter, or even wallpaper.

Kij Johnson, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe (2016)

28th September

Oh God, she thought, with sudden shock, her faith shaken, perhaps all the world's as bad as me, perhaps none of them get up and clean their houses. And then she looked down at herself, and she could see that she herself was neatly dressed, that she was wearing stockings, and that she had cleaned Laurie's shoes for the occasion expressly. She was confused by such implications, by the fact that she looked better and knew she was worse than the yawning woman....

Proper people, the people of the real world, seemed to claim their identities so easily, to step into them with their professions, to wear with defiance the uniforms and voices and faces of their selves: but she felt herself to be nothing, nebulous, shadowy, unidentifiable. And yet she saw that this could not be so: that she was defined as clearly to these others as they to her, and that some of them might flutter uneasily inside borrowed garments, as she did.

Margaret Drabble, The Waterfall (1969)

Oct 2016

5th October

I know that the pendulum often has to swing a few degrees in the wrong direction before righting itself, but it does get wearing sometimes waiting for the center to catch hold.

Norah Ephron, 'Vaginal Politics' (1972), in The Most of Norah Ephron (2013)

12th October

One day, of course, his hurts would heal, he would be able to stand outside his grief and look all around it and accept it... as she had accepted her disappointing marriage.

He's too sore now, she thought. His wounds were still open and agonising. She could remember well when she had been in the same case.

Winifred Holtby, South Riding (1936)

A movie is not good because it arrives at conclusions you share, or bad because it does not. A movie is not about what it is about. It is about how it is about it: about the way it considers its subject matter, and about how its real subject may be quite different from the one it seems to provide. Therefore it is meaningless to prefer one genre over another.

Roger Ebert, Ebert's Bests (2012)

26th October

Imagination is not a means of making money. It has no place in the vocabulary of profit-making. It is not a weapon, though all weapons originate from it, and their use, or non-use, depends on it, as with all tools and their uses. The imagination is an essential tool of the mind, a fundamental way of thinking, an indispensable means of becoming and remaining human.

Ursula K Le Guin, 'The Operating Instructions: A talk given at a meeting of Oregon Literary Arts in 2002', in Words are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, with a Journal of a Writer's Week (2016)

Once he took me to a meeting at a working-men's club in the East End, where I felt that we were acutely incongruous among the flat caps and mufflers. He also bombarded me with quotations from Houseman's [sic] sombre poems and sent me a reproduction of Durer's engraving of Father Time as a skeleton with a scythe. I had no idea that courtship was intended... and for a year I went out of my way to avoid him.

Kathleen Hale, A Slender Reputation: an autobiography (1994)

Nov 2016

2nd November

[P]erfectly certain that whatever I say Pamela's dear friends have every intention of believing, and repeating, whatever they think most sensational and nothing else.

EM Delafield, The Provincial Lady Goes Further (1932)

16th November

Fran's Freedom Pass is a comfort, but they are threatening to take that away from her. She values it disproportionately. It is a validation of work, of worth, of survival, of taxes gladly paid over a lifetime. It is her Golden Bough, her passport from the world of work to the uselessness of old age.

Margaret Drabble, The Dark Flood Rises (2016)

[No quotation for 23rd November]

30th November

Miss Pemberton, crossing her fine arms upon her square and massive bosom, gave a spirited rendering of a Spanish grandee suspected of leanings towards heresy proving his devotion to the Church by watching several of his friends and relations being burnt alive and determined to make the best of it.

Angela Thirkell, Northbridge Rectory (1941)

Dec 2016

7th December

In writing this book I have been struck again and again by the refusal of destiny to let man see what is happening to him, its mean delight in strewing his path with red herrings.

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1942)

14th December

I too have feelings about tradition and family. My family is a bookish family, a thinking family--it matters as much to me that Leo should grow up in a house full of books, as it does to his father that there should be a pony and woods.

AS Byatt, Babel Tower (1996)

21st December

[S]urely you did not expect us to win in the first round?? My goodness! when I remember the fights for Contraception, even in my time, long after the mid-nineteenth century initial struggles - not to mention the first years after a public demand for legalized abortion by qualified persons.--! also, the fights for suffrage, divorce reform, etc.

Stella Browne, letter to Alice Jenkins, 31 Aug 1953, correspondence among the archives of the Abortion Law Reform Association in the Wellcome Library

28th December

An essay, a book, is one statement in a long conversation you could call culture or history; you are answering something or questioning something that may have fallen silent long ago, and the response to your words may come long after you’re gone and never reach your ears, if anyone hears you in the first place.

After all, this is how it’s been for so many books that count, books that didn’t shake the world when they first appeared but blossomed later. This is a model for how indirect effect can be, how delayed, how invisible[.]

Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. Third Edition, with a new foreword and afterword (2016)

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